It’s time for Belmont women’s basketball to take on its next challenge.
After earning 23 wins, the conference’s regular season and tournament titles, and an NCAA Tournament berth in a historic final season in the Ohio Valley Conference, the Bruins are looking to carry that momentum right into the Missouri Valley Conference.
As the women prepare for what’s next, head coach Bart Brooks believes his team is excited for the future.
“We’re thrilled that we’re a part of this outstanding league and get to compete against some really talented coaches and players, and excited about the transition,” Brooks said.
With seven of its top nine players returning from last season’s NCAA Tournament squad — which upset the University of Oregon in the first round — Brooks is thankful to have a solid group of veterans back.
Juniors Destinee Wells, Tuti Jones and Madison Bartley highlight the most notable returnees for the Bruins.
“Those three have been a big part of what we have done the last two years,” Brooks said.
Each were named to the All-OVC first team in the 2020-21 season.
Wells grabbed OVC Tournament MVP while leading the Bruins in scoring and assists as Bartley headlined the rebounding and blocks categories while Jones won OVC Defensive Player of the Year.
Brooks has seen growth from the stars over the summer and he expects the trio to have a major impact on both ends of the floor.
Meshing with the veterans, Belmont’s roster also added two transfers and three freshmen during the off-season.
Point guard Sydni Harvey returns home to Nashville after playing four seasons at the University of South Florida, and forward Kendal Cheesman makes the short drive from Vanderbilt University after one year with the Commodores.
Brooks believes both experienced players have the ability to make a splash on the court this season.
Brooke Highmark, Kate Hollifield and Caroline Bachus are freshmen who will also add much needed depth to the team, Brooks said.
“They’re going to push our returners every day in practice and compete for playing time,” Brooks said. “We’re really excited about the future of the program with those three coming in and the contributions they’ve already made.”
With the new season on its way, all eyes will be on the Bruins after last season’s accomplishments.
“We know and we all saw firsthand the success that Belmont had last year,” MVC Commissioner Jeff Jackson said. “I was sitting there glued to my seat, even though they weren’t quite in our league yet, watching them play in Knoxville.”
Brooks realizes that this year will be a fresh start for Belmont basketball.
“We’ll be a different team than we were last year but we’re excited about the team that we’ve been working with,” Brooks said.
PHOTO: Madison Bartley and Head coach Bart Brooks on the sidelines during the women’s March Madness game against the University of Tennessee. Sarah Maninger/Belmont Vision
This article was written by Landen Secrest